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Significant improvement in agro-pastoral conditions reduces food insecurity

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mauritania
  • September 2018
Significant improvement in agro-pastoral conditions reduces food insecurity

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  • Key Messages
  • Preface

  • Preface

    FEWS NET's September 2018 Food Security Update reports present a perspective on food security that extends beyond the standard projection period. To this end, the end of this report offers a projection of these most likely outcomes to the end of the next lean season for this country. Future reports for this country may follow a non-standard schedule in the coming months. Please check back regularly for new analyses, subscribe to report updates or follow us on social media.

    Key Messages
    • After a long pause, rainfall resumed in most parts of the country, offering better conditions for grazing and for the various types of rain-fed agriculture.

    • The cumulative effects of ongoing assistance programs (cash transfers, free food distributions, reduced-price sales in government stores) are reducing food insecurity levels in most areas of concern.

    • After several years of agricultural production deficits and falling incomes, resulting in pressure on livelihoods, the moughataa of Moudjéria, Monguel and Magta Lahjar, are in a state of Crisis (IPC Phase 3). These outcomes are likely to improve only if agricultural production is average, and if pastoral conditions lead to typical animal reproduction between January and March.


    Rainfall: After a poor start to the season, rainfall in the third dekad of August and the first two dekads of September considerably reduced seasonal cumulative deficits in many agricultural and pastoral areas (Figure 1). Compared with the same period in 2017, around 65 percent of the stations monitored had equal or surplus accumulations. Compared with the 1980-2010 average, around 69 percent of stations showed favorable trends.

    On the agricultural front: The rainy season has boosted agricultural activity in rainfed farming areas and in the south of the agropastoral zone. In some farming areas, rainfed cultivation is limited both by long breaks in the season and by animals roaming in search of pasture. Rainfed lowland areas, which are very important in the central and western parts of the agropastoral zone, were flooded overall, but as the good rains only fell at the end of August, they could only be planted in September, compared with July in an average year. As for the flood recession areas, they are in the flooding phase and could be used, as in the average year, from the end of October. The dominant crop stage is sprouting in the rainfed zones and tillering in the other zones. Although farmers have sown early varieties, the delay in sowing (in August instead of July) means that the earliest harvests are not expected until October (instead of September in an average year). In the Senegal River valley, the winter irrigated season is underway, but difficulties in accessing agricultural credit are likely to lead to a fall in the area farmed by local authorities for the second year running.

    Pastoral conditions: Pastoral conditions are already good in most of the rain-fed zone, and in the eastern and central agropastoral zones. In the other pastoral zones in the north (and west), which only began to receive substantial rainfall in September, conditions are still mediocre and are not yet meeting the demand from livestock, a large proportion of which is still on transhumance to the south of the country and to Mali.

    On the phytosanitary front: According to the Department of Agriculture and the National Locust Control Center (CNLA), the situation is still calm. However, the development  of biotopes favorable to desert locust reproduction has prompted increased suspicion, following the heavy rains of August and September.

    On markets and price trends: Consumer markets remain well supplied with basic foodstuffs. Analysis of the data collected in the markets monitored reveals no atypical seasonal price rises. The availability of traditional cereals remains low, as Malian farmers' destocking from June to July was mainly purchased by livestock farmers to feed their animals, due to the rainy season. This prolonged demand was compounded by farmers' demand for seeds, leading to sharp rises in sorghum and cowpea prices compared with 2017 and the five-year average.

    Livestock markets have an atypical seasonal physiognomy, since they are well supplied overall, whereas in an average year, with improved pastoral conditions, supply is restricted. Despite this oversupply, prices have risen sharply due to the purchasing conditions that prevailed before the Tabaski holiday.  The extension of the dry spell in the west of the agropastoral zone, which prompted herders to continue their sales, is believed to be behind the fall in animal prices at the Boghé market, a popular destination for Senegalese brokers.

    Income trends: During the last dekad of July, soil preparation, sowing and the initial weeding had generated a high demand for farm labor in the center and east of the rainfed zone, and in the south of the agro-pastoral zone. The long break in rainfall during the last two weeks of August broke this momentum and considerably reduced opportunities for agricultural work. September's resumption of rainfall seems to have dampened the enthusiasm of farmers in these two zones, who have mainly invested in short-cycle crops for which the main work has been completed since the end of July. Overall, therefore, the level of seasonal income earned by poor households in these two zones is significantly lower than in an average year. In the other livelihood zones, the modest size of the rainfed cultivated area rarely requires external labor. In these same areas, the return of migrant workers reduces the already very low income generated by their exodus. In the western Senegal River valley, the harvesting of off-season crops and the start of the winter season provide opportunities for work and income for poor farming households, but the strong presence of Senegalese, Gambian and Guinea-Bissau workers limits their income. In the oasis zones, the drop in date production due to the effects of rainfall deficit resulted in a sharp fall in income from dates compared with 2017, when it was already significantly lower than in an average year.



    The assumptions in the most likely FEWS NET scenario for the period June 2018 to January 2019 have not changed significantly.


    Results projected to January 2019

    In view of current crop trends (rainfed and irrigated) and farming conditions for flood-recession crops (lowlands, dams and walo), we can expect agricultural production to be at least better than in 2017. The contribution of pastoralism should help reinforce the impact of agricultural production and reduce the pressure on livelihoods, a pressure alleviated since July by the impact of assistance programs (cash transfers, free food distributions, solidarity stores) still underway in many areas of concern. Consumer markets will remain well supplied with imported foodstuffs, and supplies of traditional cereals will improve with the rainfed harvests. Supply will shrink in livestock markets, and further increases in livestock prices (and therefore incomes) are likely.

    However, in the western part of the agropastoral zone, some very poor households will remain in a crisis situation until March, due to the sharp deterioration in their livelihoods and their high level of debt (3 to 4 months' consumption).

    Projected results until the end of the next lean season (until September 2019)

    Supplies to consumer markets are expected to be regular and sufficient. However, given the prospects for the next harvest (probably lower than an average year due to the impact of long rainfall breaks), the probable early disappearance of family stocks of poor households in the southern rainfed zone (southern Hodh Chargui) and the western agropastoral zone (southern and central Magta Lahjar, northern and central Monguel, southern Aleg, western and northern M'Bout) will accentuate market dependence from February onwards, instead of May in an average year. Considering that assistance programs are not yet planned, financed and likely, poor households could be in a Stressed (IPC Phase 2) as early as February. On the other hand, in the Senegal River valley, currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), the walo and irrigated perimeters will reduce food insecurity levels as early as January, and the lean season should only last from May to August, as in an average year. In the rest of the country, food insecurity levels will fluctuate between Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    Figures Figure 1. Anomalie pluviométrique (en mm) de juin á août 2019

    Figure 1

    Figure 1.

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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